Have always loved the Maxima back from the second generation (1989). Excellent "european ride", very comfortable and responsive.
Just bought a used 2002 Maxima SE and have a few comments for those considering a similar purchase.
- Excellent gas mileage. Although I do a lot of highway driving, I do drive in the city every now and again and am getting 30 MPG overall. Fabulous. While the owner's manual advises drivers to use premium, I use regular and have had no problems. I am not a leadfoot and this might have something to do with it, but it is the first car where my actual mileage is better than the EPA's.
- Lotta car for the money. The Altima is stealing most of the Maxima's thunder - and let it. I don't care for the downmarket look of the Altima interior. But many dealers are having to be more aggressive in marketing their Maximas. Bought my used 2002 Maxima in Late October 2002 with 14k miles for just under $18,000. Trip computer; steering wheel radio, cruise and computer controls; CD player; cool 5-spoke alloy rims and finished in a gorgeous glacier pearl.
- The latest generation 3.5 liter engine with 255 HP is impressive. Quiet, smooth, refined. Excellent cruise control too.
- My other car is a Mercedes and I traded a Jaguar to get this Maxima so my tastes my not exactly be mainstream. Nonetheless, I love the feel of this car. The cabin is quiet (important because I usually motor along with the radio off) and generally speaking ergonomically comfortable.
- High quality feel. Very hard to quantify but can be related with the following examples: 1) absence of body flex and shutter over bumps; 2) low harmonic frequency so sounds in the cabin have a "quality" lower pitch as opposed to a hollow, higher pitched, tinny sound; 3) doors close with a "thunk"; 4) materials feel nice to the touch; 5) covered cubbyholes (drink holder, sunglasses holder) open with a slow smooth action; and 6) seamlessly smooth transmission.
- Way cool headlamp cluster. Standard Xenon headlights. Just wish there was a daytime running light feature.
- Some annoying vibrations. Nothing major - and mainly a function of the super quiet cabin - but noticable nonetheless. If they were gone, the car would be Lexus quiet!
- Barely adequate base stereo. I know that there is a Bose upgrade, but I've heard that it wasn't very good either. When I do listen to the stereo, I want the highs crisp and to feel the lows without their being distorted. Middle of the road, normal listening, the sound system is fine.
- "Service Engine Soon" light came on after a day and the Homelink (garage door transmitter) was inop. Took it to the dealer and they had it fixed within three hours. Had to back order the Homelink transmitter part though. Haven't had the car long enough to ascertain if this is indicative of things to come, but I have heard nothing but praises from everyone I know that owns a Maxima, so I'll let this one slide.
- Old fashioned trunk hinges impede on interior space.
- The Maxima is supposed to be totally redesigned for the 2004 model year, so this body style might be obsolete very soon. If that makes a difference to anyone. As for myself, I love the styling with the spoke wheels and SE ground effects.
- Some of the controls (mirror adjustment and dashlight intensity switches) are blocked from view by the steering wheel.
- On some models, the gauge faces are silver. During dusk hours, after the dash lights have come one, it is hard to read the guages because the numbers are white on silver. Not a biggie, but clearly an oversight since it is an issue easily remedied by using a differnt color bulb for the numerals like some other manufacturers. I've seen blue (Volkswagen) which is my favorite and orange (some Chryslers).
- The center armrest, though a technical marvel, is not very conducive to good ergonomics. Try it and you'll see. Still, a wonderful design so not a negative.
- The ride in the SE, with its firmer suspension and thinner tires, is very good but a little on the harsh side. The GXE and GLE aren't much better. Still, some people love the responsiveness of the car.
- Only a single CD player as opposed to a stacker. But there is wiring in the trunk for a stacker if you want one. Just wish their would be an in-dash option that is all so common right now.
- Generally speaking, it looks like the Maxima holds its value relatively well.
Overall, a great car for the money. Although I am a car freak and have owned over a dozen cars, I am of the thinking that there is no reason for one to spend more than $25,000 for a vehicle. Everything you could possibly need can be bought for that sum or less. Even brand new, the Maxima costs less than the $25k threshhold. Its performance, reliability, technically advanced powerplant and excellent road manners make it a very good buy, if not one of the best.
Please note: while I have always liked the Maxima from way back when, I drove one a couple of months back because my other car was in the shop. My initial impression was not that which you have read above. It did not offend, it just didn't really stand out either - at first. Then over the course of a week, I really began to like how the car handled and felt. My point being this, do not let a short test drive be your deciding factor. Take it on an extended drive if you can, or better yet, rent one for the week. It is a car whose subtle qualities and creature comforts will grow on you.
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